In transpacific and Asian/American studies, islands often gain decolonial meaning via their explicit ties to US and Japanese military imperialisms. This article inquires how islands express the decolonial beyond US‐centric anti‐imperial critique, and how they complicate the fields’ geopolitical imagination largely defined by the category of independent nation‐states. To that end, the author turns to Taiwanese writer Wu Ming‐Yi's The Man with the Compound Eyes and develops “archipelagic optics” as a transpacific interpretive framework—one that includes the decontinental in its decolonial thesis. Archipelagic optics takes liminal islands such as Taiwan and the Great Pacific Garbage Patch as its epistemic grounds; it advances a multicentered epistemology in order to articulate inter‐ and intra‐island contradictions; and it foregrounds “interdependence” rather than “independence” as an ontopolitical premise of archipelagic lives. Archipelagic optics indexes a form of decolonial sensing by refuting the impersonal, monocular eye of military cameras used by multiple empires to surveil Pacific islands. As this article will demonstrate, the decolonial goes beyond the deconstruction of military intercolonialism. It also means tracing noninnocent multiplicity, decontinental seeing, and immanent dependencies emerging from formerly “obscure” sites.

You do not currently have access to this content.